ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan’s Ben Gedeon enjoyed the 32-23 win this past Saturday over Michigan State, but the senior linebacker wasn’t too thrilled with roughly eight — and eight quite particular — plays on the defensive side of the ball.
Too many missed tackles, he said.
Too many missed assignments, he added.
Too many miscues.
The problems were especially evident with Spartans sophomore running back L.J. Scott, who gashed the then-No. 2-ranked (now No. 3 CFP) Wolverines with 22 carries for 139 yards — with a long of 40 — and a touchdown. To date, he’s the only ball-carrier to have damaged the nation’s No. 1-ranked total defense in such a manner.
“We just didn’t… we didn’t tackle well at all, and it wasn’t like us,” said Gedeon, who had four tackles — two solo. “Like I said, it’s a point of emphasis this week, (something) we’ve got to get better at. It didn’t look like us — those eight plays, especially.”
The large gains — some by Scott and one 24-yarder by quarterback Brian Lewerke — have been “ingrained” into Gedeon’s mind.
“But yeah… we’ve got to be better,” he said.
Again, Gedeon enjoyed the victory — Michigan’s first over MSU since 2012 — but days later, he remained critical of the lapses that led the Spartans to 401 yards of total offense.
It was the highest total yardage surrendered all season by the 8-0 (5-0) Wolverines.
Poor tackling hasn’t been a major issue this season, but it has shown up in short spurts. There was a bit of it versus Colorado and a small dose of it against UCF.
Both of those teams’ offenses had another offensive gear, one which troubled the Wolverines in 2015 — and it’s called “tempo.” Indiana exposed that slight weakness in 2015, perhaps better than any team, and Maryland could have similar success this Saturday in Ann Arbor.
Well, probably not. Maryland (5-3, 2-3) still has plenty of room to grow before contending with a power such as Michigan.
With that said, the Terps do have the necessary components to at least challenge the Wolverines in some capacity. Quarterback Perry Hills has completed 66 percent of his passes, and running backs Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison combined for 220 yards during a 28-17 home win over MSU. Together, they’ve gained nearly 1,200 yards and scored nine touchdowns.
Gedeon realizes that Maryland has the ability to move up the field, but he’s confident in the game plan of defensive coordinator Don Brown.
And he’s quite certain that he faces capable athletes during practice. Michigan has one of the most potent offenses in the nation, averaging 46.4 points per game.
“You practice, see it every day — you can play it,” said Gedeon, who has grown a Brown-inspired mustache. “Sometimes, when we get into the game, it’s slower than what we see in practice.”
Has Brown placed a premium on defending tempo? More of an emphasis this time around for what looks to be a College Football Playoff-bound program?
“I don’t think so. It’s also a mindset, you know,” Gedeon said. “We determine the tempo, you know, with our play and how we play. If they can’t get first downs, they really can’t really get up-tempo.”